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Blog of the Grateful Bear

ramblings of a freelance panentheist {"all things are in God, and God is in all things"} . . . musings on Emergent spirituality, powerlifting, LGBTQueer issues, contemplative prayer, mysticism, cats, music, healing, and more. I like my coffee and my existentialism dark-roasted.

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Location: Marietta, Georgia, United States

I'm an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), in private practice in Marietta, Georgia. My writings on queer spirituality have been published in Whosoever and several other magazines. I live in a house-in-the-woods (Bear's Hermitage) in Marietta with Leonidas (Lenny) and Guy, Mighty Warrior Cats, and way too many books.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Return To The Most Human...

Unison Benediction
a poem by May Sarton

Return to the most human,
nothing less will nourish the torn spirit,
the bewildered heart,
the angry mind:
and from the ultimate duress,
pierced with the breath of anguish,
speak of love.

Return, return to the deep sources,
nothing less will teach the stiff hands a new way to serve,
to carve into our lives the forms of tenderness
and still that ancient necessary pain preserve.

Return to the most human,
nothing less will teach the angry spirit,
the bewildered heart,
the torn mind,
to accept the whole of its duress,
and pierced with anguish...
at last, act for love.

~ May Sarton ~

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Episcopal Squirrels

A joke I've seen several places on the internet . . .

Three churches in a small town found that their church buildings had become over-run with squirrels.

The Presbyterian church decided that it was pre-destined that the squirrels would be there and therefore left the squirrels to their own devices.

The Unitarian church decided the best measure was to humanely trap the squirrels and take them to a nice place in the woods. Naturally the squirrels returned three days later.

The Episcopal church decided to have the squirrels baptized and confirmed. Now the squirrels only come to church on Christmas and Easter.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Touched By His Noodly Appendage

The truth (at last!) from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What Is Truth?

I’ve noticed a recurring pattern among some of my fellow travellers on the spiritual path: an extreme reluctance to make a definite moral statement. I understand that in this postmodern age there is (supposedly) no such thing as absolute truth. And I can understand why many (especially in the GLBT community) are reluctant to make any definite moral statements: many of us have been abused or alienated by those who have used such “absolute” statements as weapons against us.

But it seems to me that if we never stand up for what is true – if we never speak our truth with conviction – we slip into a kind of moral vacuum, where every viewpoint is given equal weight, no matter how harmful the consequences of those viewpoints may be to others.

An example from the current news: Pat Robertson has called for the United States to assassinate the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. As good liberal postmodernists who value tolerance and dialogue between those of differing paths, are we supposed to consider Pat Robertson’s viewpoint a valid one? Are we intolerant if we refuse to tolerate an intolerant viewpoint? Is it OK to call Pat Robertson (or at least his words) vile and loathsome, or are we judgmental and absolutist ourselves if we do so?

I have no answers, just concerns. I welcome your feedback.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Laughing Buddha

Thanks to James and Isaiah for posting a link to A lighter side of Buddhism, a website of Buddhist humor. My favorites:

Q: Why don't Buddhists vacuum in the corners?
A: Because they have no attachments.

Q: How many Zen Buddhists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Tree falling in the forest.

"Don't just do something ... Sit there!"

Saturday, August 20, 2005

"A Condition of the Sea"

Just got back yesterday from four days at Tybee Island, on the Georgia coast. The deadly rays of Amon-Ra were way too oppressive during the day (temps were in the high 90’s and low 100’s Fahrenheit, and Heat Advisories were in effect), so we swam in the ocean in the mornings and early evenings, and headed into Savannah for the air-conditioned coffeehouses during the days. (Favorites: The Sentient Bean and Gallery Espresso.) We also visited some of the art galleries and shops, including A. T. Hun's (where I bought two prints by the mystical artist Brian Macgregor), and Moondance, where I bought a beautiful little unikite stone. And, of course, we partook of the excellent seafood (“Local Shrimp!” read many of the ads). The best crabcakes were at the funky little waterside Cafe Loco.

I had not been to the ocean in about two years, and I was starting to really miss it. Over the years I’ve had several mystical experiences while floating in the ocean. (I pity those poor muscular dudes who don’t have enough bodyfat to allow them to float.) This week I spent many happy hours floating, allowing myself to rest in the sea’s salty arms, at times silently doing mantra meditation or the Sufi elemental breaths (outlined in Part 2 of this lesson from the Sufi Healing Order), at other times just floating, mindfully aware of the vibrant life around me.

My favorite time was spent alone in the ocean one evening, between moonrise and sunset. Looking out over the horizon I could see the almost-full moon, large and glowing, casting rays of moonshine over the waves of the ocean as they gained intensity for high tide. I'm pretty sure I heard the Flipper-like chirping of dolphins, although I didn't see any. Looking back toward the beach I could see the setting sun, its rays bursting up through the salmon-colored clouds in a perfect V-shape, a brilliant “light show” from the Artisan of wind and waves.

“Man is a condition of God as a wave is a condition of the sea.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan

“Can you see that one easily slips into identifying oneself as a discrete individual, oblivious that we are part of the whole. Just as Hazrat Inayat Khan points out, a wave has no existence on its own, it is a condition of the sea, so likewise we are a condition of the Totality of God.”
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan


Monday, August 15, 2005

Bono: Grace Over Karma

In an interview featured on the Christianity Today website, U2's Bono talks about the difference between Karma and Grace. Here are a few excerpts. . .

It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

. . .You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

. . .I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace.

Bono also talks about meeting with Pope John Paul II and giving the Pope his wrap-around sunglasses ("as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me"). More of the interview, from the new book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, is on the CT site: Bono: Grace over Karma.


More About Mary...

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about John Hiatt's "Gnostic rock" song about Mary Magdalene . . .

When I first read The Gospel of Mary of Magdela, I was struck by how parts of it sounded, well, Buddhist. Especially the "secret teachings" Jesus gave Mary about the journey of the soul after death. Now I've come across a webpage that points out the similarity between that passage and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It also draws a parallel between one of Jesus' sayings in this gospel and a verse from the Tao Teh Ching. The page is part of the Reluctant Messenger website: Syncretic View of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.

And here's a fascinating website devoted to Mary: magdalene.org.

{The painting pictured here is El Greco's St. Mary Madgalene, painted in 1580.}


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Gnostic Rock

The Gnostic gospels are popping up in some unexpected places. John Hiatt’s new rock/Americana CD, Master of Disaster, has a song, “Love’s Not Where We Thought We Left It,” that makes reference to at least two of the Gnostic gospels. The second verse contains the lyric,

The apostles were jealous
Of Mary Magdalene and Jesus
Said Why do you love her more than us
Jesus turned back in disgust
Said Why do I love her more than you
The answer is a question
Just ask yourself what can I do
To gain my Lord’s affection

This little story, set to a driving rock beat, is reminiscent of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, which portrays Mary has having secret knowlege that Jesus shared only with her, not with the other disciples. It’s even more reminiscent of a passage in The Gospel of Philip, which tell us that Jesus

loved her [Mary Magdalene] more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples . . . said to him "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior answered and said to them,"Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness."

--a typically Zen-like response from the Jesus of the Gnostic gospels.

The third verse of the song makes reference to The Gospel of Thomas (my favorite), in which Jesus talks about making "male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female" (verse 22). The third verse of Hiatt's song also tells us that "love is unorthodox" -- a nice reminder of a truth that most of this blog's readers already know.

When asked about the song in a recent interview, John Hiatt said: “I started reading the new Jim Harrison novel [True North] and he mentioned Elaine Pagels, who's written a lot about the Gnostic gospels, and how the Gnostic Christian thing didn't survive and the more orthodox stream did. It's just about the idea of people thinking they have the market cornered on goodness and godliness. There's a premium on that these days, on bluster rather than humility.”

I’ve never read anything by Jim Harrison, but I’m intrigued that he would quote Elaine Pagels in a novel. I’m going to the beach next week (Tybee Island), so I may take along Harrison’s novel to read on the beach (or in a Savannah coffee house in the evenings).

John Hiatt’s Master of Disaster is a great CD, especially if you like earthy rock with a touch of Memphis blues and a bit of an alt.country twang – and a nice dose of unorthodox theology.

To hear the song “Love’s Not Where We Thought We Left It,” go to the New West Records homepage and click on Podcast #6 (“Freebies”), a 25-minute mp3 collection of five songs by New West artists. Hiatt’s song is the second one. Stick around for the fourth song in the set, “Uninhabited Man,” by another mystic, Richard Thompson (a Sufi).


Sunday, August 07, 2005

The View

it is your mind
that creates this world

The Buddha

from Tibetan Treasures

Friday, August 05, 2005

Why We Flee Silence

From the Bruderhof Communities' Ten Ways of Looking at Silence:

Unfortunately, in seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self. It is a harrowing journey, a death to self—the false self—and no one wants to die. But it is the only path to life, to freedom, to peace, to true love. And it begins with silence. We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves. This is the great value of silence. It is the pathway to all we truly want.
--M. Basil Pennington

Silence is the measure of the power to act; that is, a person never has more power to act than he has silence. Anyone can understand that to do something is far greater than to talk about doing it. If, therefore, a person has a plan or idea and is fully resolved to carry it out, he does not need to talk about it. What he talks about in connection with the proposed action is what he is most unsure of and most unwilling to do.
--Soren Kierkegaard